Antarctica: Southern Ocean floor mapped in greatest ever detail

Scientists have made the most precise map yet of the mountains, canyons and plains that make up the floor of Antarctica's encircling Southern Ocean.
Covering 48 million sq km, this chart for the first time details a new deepest point - a depression lying 7,432m down called the Factorian Deep.

Knowledge of the shape of the ocean's bottom is essential to safe navigation, marine conservation, and understanding Earth's climate and geological history.

The new map covers all the Southern Ocean floor poleward of 50 degrees South. If you divide its 48 million sq km (18.5 million sq miles) into 500m grid squares, 23% of these cells now have at least one modern depth measurement.

That's a big improvement on nine years ago.

Seafloor maps are essential for safe navigation, obviously, but also for fisheries management and conservation, because it is around the underwater mountains that marine wildlife tends to congregate. Each seamount is a biodiversity hotspot.

But we still have much to learn. Vast tracts of terrain have never been properly surveyed.